Preparing for Life as an Expat

August 12, 2015
I just got back from traveling for three weeks, so it seems crazy that I will be moving to China in nine days.  NINE.  I have a lot to take care of before the trip, so I thought I'd generate a list to help myself and hopefully others prepare for the plunge!

Get your doctor/dentist appointments in. Before I move overseas, I try to do this beforehand. Of course it is possible to go to the doctor's office in other countries, but I like to go to someone who knows my medical history while I can. It's also just one less thing you'll have to worry about when you arrive in your new environment. 

Start scheduling visits with your friends/family members. There are so many people I want to see before I go to China for a year.  Of course, my friends are spread out in Ohio and in the South. Since it's still the summer which is peak vacation time, I probably should have contacted my friends more in advance. Don't wait to start arranging your visits!

Sell what you will no longer be using. For me, I have to sell my car because I have nowhere to store it while in China. I'll also be selling my phone because I have to get a new one in China. Might as well try to make some cash!

Get a credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees. In Iceland, every time I used my card, I was charged around 50 to 75 cents per purchase. That adds up, and I know that I don't want to have to pay that in China every time I use my card. Rachael used the Capital One Venture card in Iceland and wasn't charged any fees, and our friend just told us about Chase Sapphire Preferred, which is what I'm leaning towards!

Call your bank/credit card company and let them know your new location. Having your cards frozen overseas is a royal pain! I've had it happen to me, so if anything can be done to possibly avoid this then take those measures!

Figure out where you will store the items you will not take with you. Will your parents or other relatives let you keep your stuff with them? Do you need to pay for a storage unit? If so, what is worth keeping and what should you purge? You should have a plan for this.

Arrange for airport pick up, if needed. When you arrive at your final destination, you're likely going to be tired and have heavy suitcases with you. To alleviate the stress, it's a good idea to have someone meet you there. Luckily, someone from my school will be there to meet me when I arrive.

Cancel services you will not be using anymore. This includes utilities, car insurance, cell phone services, etc. Decide ahead of time when it's appropriate to cancel each service and set aside time to do so!

Get a VPN if you think you'll be using public Wifi frequently or if you'll be going to a country where big sites are blocked. For China, this is pretty much a necessity for me since everything from Google to Facebook is blocked. However, you still may want to consider downloading a VPN app for your phone/computer so that your online transactions are more secure if you'll be using public Wifi. I just read a great blog post by Nomadic Matt who explains VPNS in detail.

Make copies of important documents. Since I'll be going to China to work, I'll need copies of my passport (this is obviously in addition to the real thing!), teaching license, diploma, etc. I'll also be leaving a copy of my passport with my parents, just in case. 

Print out flight itineraries. Maybe this is old-fashioned, but I like to have a hard-copy of my flight schedule with me at all times since I've had technology fail on me before. 

Invest in a guide book. I'm not going to pretend that I know Shanghai like the back of my hand. I'm going to need a lot of help when I first arrive to find my way around and to decide where I want to go, so I will be purchasing Lonely Planet's Guide to Shanghai. Unless you know the place you'll be moving to well, a guide book could really be a useful resource to have around. 

Stock up on hard to find items to take with you.  Just thinking about everything I need to buy for China is stressing me out! I feel like if I was a petite girl, this would be WAY easier because I have to come prepared with enough clothing for the entire year knowing that I can't really just go to the store and buy what I need. I should have enough shoes, work outfits, regular outfits, bras, socks, underwear, etc for the whole year. Other items that aren't so readily available in China include: deodorant, tampons, razors, certain branded makeup products from the States, and so on. No matter where you go in the world, you'll likely be missing something from back home, so find out what those items are and bring extra.

Change your address. I'm having all of my mail forwarded to my parents' address and am using that as my "home address" in the States. That way, my parents will be able to send me any important documents that I need, and I'll still be allowed to keep my U.S. bank account.

Register with your country's embassy.  It's just always a good idea in case there would be an emergency. Plus, you will be sent any relevant travel alerts. 

Have you ever lived in another country for an extended period of time? What are your suggestions to help the move go smoothly?
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